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Pump system curve

SUBJECT: Understanding the pump system curve 5-12 Every pump manufacturer would like to recommend the perfect pump for your application. To do this he would like you to provide him with an accurate system curve that would describe the capacity and head needed for your various operating conditions. Once he has your system curve, he can plot his pump curves on top of the system curve and hopefully select something that will come close to your needs. Without this system curve, neither one of you has much of a chance of coming up with the right pump. To create a system curve we plot the desired capacities against the required head over the total anticipated operating range of the pump. The head will be measured in feet or meters and the capacity will be measured in gallons per minute or cubic meters per hour. Some of the confusion begins when we realize that there are three different kinds of head: STATIC HEAD This is the vertical distance measured from the center line of the pump to the height of the piping discharge inside the tank. Look at figure "A" and note that the piping discharge is below the maximum elevation of the piping system. We do not use the maximum elevation in our calculations because the siphoning action will carry the fluid over this point once the piping is full of liquid. This is the same action that lets you siphon gasoline out of an automobile to a storage can. The pump will have to develop enough head to fill the pipe and then the siphoning action will take over. The pump operating point should move back towards the best efficiency point (B.E.P.) if the pump was selected correctly. FIGURE "A"

DYNAMIC OR SYSTEM HEAD As the liquid flows through the piping and fittings, it is subject to the friction caused by the piping inside finish, restricted passages in the fittings and hardware that has been installed in the system. The resulting "pressure drop" is described as a "loss of head" in the system, and can be calculated from graphs and charts provided by the pump and piping manufacturers. These charts are not included with this paper, you can find them in the Hydraulic Institute Manuals. This "head" loss is related to the condition of the system and makes the calculations difficult when you realize that older systems may have "product build up" on the piping walls, filters, strainers, valves, elbows, heat exchangers, etc., making the published numbers some what inaccurate. A general "rule of thumb" says that the friction loss in clean piping will vary approximately with 90% of the square of the change in flow in the piping, and 100% of the square with the change of flow in the fittings and accessories. You calculate the change in flow by dividing the new flow by the old flow and then square the number. As an example:

In the original application system, loss was a combination of the loss through the piping and the loss through the fittings for a total of 100 feet at 200 gallons per minute. When we increased the flow to 300 gallons per minute our system head changed to a total of 208.13 feet. This change would have to be added to the static and pressure heads to calculate the total head required for the new pump. Please note that the pump is pumping the difference between the suction head and the discharge head, so if you fail to consider that the suction head will be either added to or subtracted from the discharge head, you will make an error in your calculations. The suction head will be negative if you are lifting liquid from below ground or if you are pumping from a vacuum. It will be positive if you are pumping from a tank located above ground. If the suction head is pressurized, this pressure must be converted to head and subtracted from the total head required by the pump. A centrifugal pump will create a head/capacity curve that will generally resemble one of the curves described in figure "B" The shape of the curve is determined by the Specific Speed number of the impeller.

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.E. but should be selected to pump as close to the best efficiency point (B.) as possible. The curve will look like this if the majority of the head is either static or pressure head. will fall some where between 80% and 85% of the shut off head (maximum head). The second system is the ideal one.P.M. POSITIVE DISPLACEMENT PUMPS have a different shaped curve. This is a very common application in many process systems or aboard a ship that is frequently changing speeds (answering bells). They look something like Figure "C". is the normal routine in most process the head remains a constant as the capacity varies. This is a typical application for: A boiler feed pump that is supplying a constant pressure boiler with a varying steam demand. Unless you are using synchronous motors (you probably are using induction motors on your pumps) you will have to adjust the curves to match your actual pump speed. In this system. The manufacturer generated these curves at a specific R. Put a tachometer on the running motor and record the rpm. Filling a tank from the top and varying the amount of liquid being pumped.P. difference between your pump and the speed shown on the pump manufacturer's published curve. The B.Pump system curve http://www. Figure "E" describes it: 2 of 4 11/26/2013 6:34 PM .P.E. You can use the pump affinity laws to approximate the change.html Centrifugal pumps always pump somewhere on their curve.

a long distance from the source with little to no elevation involved. Keep the following in mind as you select your pump: A centrifugal pump will pump where the pump curve intersects the system curve. the best efficiency point comes down at an angle. pressure and system heads. you can install a sleeve bearing in the packing space to support the shaft when the pump is operated off of its B. The shape of his curve will be pretty much determined by the specific speed number of the impeller.E. you can do the following to resist some of the shaft displacement: Use a solid shaft. The capacity of a pump is determined by the impeller width and r.. You can estimate that a 2% to a 5% slip is normal in these pumps with the "slip" directly related to the price of the motor. Sleeves often raise the L3/D4 number to over 60 (2 in the metric system).m. you add the capacities together.m. pump rpm. Pump curves are based on a speed of 1750.html In this system the entire head is system head so it will vary with the capacity. Unfortunately most process and boiler feed pump system curves are not exponential.p. This is especially important at start up.P. Pumping to a non pressurized tank. impeller width. A robust pump. and this is too high a number for reliable seal performance. The further off the B.. the heads will add together. In addition to specific speed he can select impeller diameter. This may bear no relationship to the best efficiency point (B. Look for this type of curve in the following applications: A circulating hot or cold water heating/ cooling system. Once the seal has been moved closer to the The head of a centrifugal pump is determined by the impeller diameter and rpm. System curve "G" is a common one. or any time a pump discharge valve is operated.E.P. You could also have a problem operating too far to the right of the best efficiency point with a possible motor "burn out". so the impeller diameters and rpm's must be the same if you connect pumps in parallel. 3500.P. and the head and capacity numbers needed he can then select the proper centrifugal pump. the more robust the pump you will need. Filling tank cars is a typical application. It is the mechanical seal that is the most sensitive to shaft deflection and vibration.). If the heads are different. 1450.P. with a low L3/D4. When you vary the speed of a centrifugal pump. It is a combination of static. the stronger pump will throttle the weaker one. If you connect the pumps in series. Check the rpm's on these pumps if you are experiencing any difficulties. 3 of 4 11/26/2013 6:34 PM .p. You should also keep in mind that if the motor is running at its best efficiency point that does not mean that the pump is running at its B. so the capacities must be the same or one of them will probably cavitate.E. is still your best protection against seal and bearing premature failure when the pump is operating off of its best efficiency point.. This is especially true if you have replaced the packing with a mechanical seal and no longer have the packing to act as a support bearing when the shaft deflects. and he also has the option of series or parallel operation along with the possibility of using a multi-stage pump to satisfy your needs. Since you will be using pumps that were supplied at the lowest cost. Try to keep the mechanical seal as close to the bearings as possible. When you connect pumps in parallel. or 2900 r. The affect is almost the same as changing the diameter of the impeller. or your desire for the pump to perform a specific task. The sad fact is that most pumps are selected poorly because of the desire to offer the customer the lowest possible price. Once the pump manufacturer has a clear idea as to the shape of your system curve. Stop the cavitation if you are experiencing any..mcnallyinstitute. This means that the variable speed motor will work best on a system curve that is exponential (Figure "F").E. Shaft deflection is always a major problem at start up. you go.Pump system curve http://www. Electric induction motors seldom run at these speeds because of "slip".

These factors added together can cause you to purchase a pump that is very much over sized. Check that the shaft is not bent or the rotating assembly is not out of dynamic balance. because people tap into the lines. The actual system always differs from that shown on the print. to make an accurate system head calculation. etc. due to temperature expansion. to get the spare parts business.motor alignment difficulties. Pressure recorders (not gauges) installed at the pump suction and discharge is another technique you can use to get a better picture of the system or dynamic head.something is wrong. Do not be surprised to find that the discharge of your pump is hooked up to the discharge of another pump further down the line. Use a "C" or "D" frame adapter to solve pump. Keep in mind that if several people are involved in the selection process each of them will commonly add a safety factor to the calculated pump size. but not easy. Do not trust the system prints to make your is causing an alignment problem. Pump selection is simple. They will show you how the head is varying with changes in flow.mcnallyinstitute. For information about my CD with over 600 Seal & Pump Subjects explained..Pump system curve http://www. click here Link to the Mc Nally home page 4 of 4 11/26/2013 6:34 PM . In other words. the pumps are connected in parallel and no body knows it.html Balance the rotating assembly. If you're purchasing pumps at too big a discount&emdash. using the pumped fluid for a variety of purposes and after having done so forget to change or "mark up" the original system print. A center line design wet end can be used if pipe strain. Do not depend upon the knowledge of the local pump salesman to select the correct pump for you. You are going to have to "walk down" the system and note the pipe length. there is no free lunch. In many cases he is prepared to sell his pump at cost. the number of fittings.